Blue and John Crow Mountains

UNESCO World Heritage

View from Blue Mountain Peak by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

A symbol of Maroons resilience

The cultural and natural heritage of the Blue and John Crow Mountains comprises 26,252 ha of tropical, montane rainforest within the larger Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountain ranges, located in the eastern part of Jamaica in the Caribbean. These two ranges cover approximately 20% of the island’s total landmass and are recognised for their biodiversity significance within the Caribbean Region.

Blue Mountain by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The property spans elevations from 850m to 2,256m asl and is surrounded by a buffer zone of some 28,494 ha. The high elevation, rugged landscape and the north and south-facing slopes of the mountains of the property have resulted in a wide variety of habitat types with nine ecological communities within the upper montane forest of the Blue Mountains (over 1,000m) and John Crow Mountains (over 600m).

Aerial View of Blue Mountains by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

These include a unique Mor Ridge Forest characterised by a deep layer of acidic humus with bromeliads and endangered tree species. Above 1,800m, the vegetation of the Blue Mountains is more stunted with some species restricted to these altitudes.

Lobelia martagon by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

Above 2,000m the forest is known as Elfin Forest due to the stunted and gnarled appearance of the trees which are heavily coated with epiphytes including hanging mosses, ferns and tiny orchids.

View from Blue Mountain Peak by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The Blue and John Crow Mountains property lies within the Jamaican Moist Forests Global 200 priority eco-region, and is part of one of the 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for the conservation of the world’s amphibian, bird and mammal species. Furthermore it coincides with a Centre of Plant Diversity; an Endemic Bird Area and contains two of Jamaica’s five Alliance for Zero Extinction sites.

Homerus Swallowtail by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

There is an exceptionally high proportion of endemic plant and animal species found in the property, Jamaica having evolved separately from other landmasses. In addition, the property hosts a number of globally endangered species, including several frog and bird species.The Blue and John Crow Mountains property offered refuge to Maroons (former enslaved peoples) and therefore preserves the tangible cultural heritage associated with the Maroon story. This includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, hiding places, etc. that form the Nanny Town Heritage Route.

Cephalis elata – Hot Lips by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The forests and their rich natural resources provided everything the Maroons needed to survive, to fight for their freedom, and to nurture their culture. Maroon communities still hold strong spiritual associations with these mountains, expressed through exceptional intangible manifestations.

Blakea Trinervia – Jamaican Rose by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The Blue and John Crow Mountains belongs to the Caribbean Islands biodiversity hotspot and is an important centre for plant endemism in the Caribbean displaying 50% endemicity in the flowering plants at elevations above 900-1000m asl with between 30-40% of these species found only within the property’s boundaries. One of two Centres of Plant Diversity in Jamaica, the property includes a reported 1,357 species of flowering plant of which approximately 294 are Jamaican endemics and 87 of these species are found only within the property.

Black-billed Streamertail Hummingbird by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The Blue and John Crow Mountains overlaps with one of the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas, based on its importance for amphibian, bird and mammal species. The property hosts globally significant populations of bird species and represents a key part of the Jamaican Endemic Bird Area.

Walking along the Corn Puss Gap Trail by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The tangible cultural heritage associated with the Maroon story

The Blue and John Crow Mountains in combination with its cultural heritage, materialised by the Nanny Town Heritage Route and associated remains, i.e. secret trails, settlements, archaeological remains, look-outs, hiding places etc., bear exceptional witness to the phenomenon of grand marronage as characterized by Windward Maroon culture which, in the search for freedom from colonial enslavement, developed a profound knowledge of, and attachment to, their environment, that sustained and helped them to achieve autonomy and recognition.

Visitors viewing waterfalls at Holywell by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

Blue and John Crow Mountains is directly associated with events that led to the liberation, and continuing freedom and survival, of groups of fugitive enslaved Africans that found their refuge in the Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Silver Hill Waterfalls by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The property conveys outstandingly its association with living traditions, ideas and beliefs that have ensured that survival, and the specificity and uniqueness of which was recognised by UNESCO in 2008 through its inscription in the Representative List of Intangible Heritage.

Cuna Cuna Pass Trail by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

This trail is one of the most historic of the Maroon trails and a relatively easy 8km hike along the pass through the Blue Mountains. Following its use in Maroon battles with the British, it was used as a market trail connecting two aligned parishes with very different produce.

Rio Grande by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

Today, it links the community of Hayfield, St. Thomas with the Bowden Pen Farmers’ Association community eco-resort – Ambassabeth in Portland.

Three Finger Spring by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

Three Finger Jack (Jack Mansong) was a Maroon who lost two fingers at this spring along the Cuna Cuna Pass Trail. Oral history indicates that he lost the fingers in a fight with another Maroon – Quashie or that he frightened a woman at the spring and she managed to remove two of his fingers from his hand with her machete.

Nanny Town Heritage Route by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

In later years, he became a renegade and was eventually caught in 1781 by the Maroon Quashie who turned him over to the British for a reward. A number of books and plays were written in England about Three Finger Jack during the 18th century as he became a Robin Hood type hero.

Quao River by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

This sacred site of the Maroons is named after Captain Quao, an esteemed leader of the Windward Maroons.

Catching ‘janga’ by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

The Maroons have traditionally used a fish pot made from bamboo to catching janga - Jonga serrei and fish. They sometimes use bamboo baskets as well.

Hikers at the Peak on International Mountain Day by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

World Heritage Volunteers Blue and John Crow Mountains by Blue and John Crow MountainsUNESCO World Heritage

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica
www.mcges.gov.jm/

More on the Blue and John Crow Mountains and World Heritage:
https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1356/

Photos: Blue and John Crow Mountains NP; Keron Campbell; JNHT; Susan Otuokon

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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